- The National Science Foundation classifies archaeology as a social science in some ways. The Archaeology program is part of the Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, but it is NOT part of the Division of Social and Economic Sciences with the other major social sciences. Instead, we are part of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, which includes psychology, geography, and "Anthropological Sciences," which in turn includes archaeology
- The Thomson-Reuters journal classification system classifies archaeology as part of the humanities. This affects searching, journal comparisons, etc.
- The World Social Science Report barely discusses archaeology. It is mentioned a number of times, generally when giving a list of subdisciplines of anthropology, although it is listed as a discipline of its own a couple of times. But my brief skim suggests that archaeology is not taken into account very seriously in the syntheses or recommendations of that document.
- The position of archaeology as a "subdiscipline" of anthropology may contribute to its isolation from other social sciences, a universe in which (cultural) anthropology is often seen as an isolated outlier. For example a recent book presenting a unified methodological approach for the social sciences (Gerring 2011) pretty much dismisses anthropology as too interpretivist, too humanities-oriented to be included with sociology, political science, economics, and other social sciences. The science flap at the AAA does not help here.
- The predominance of high-level social-philosophical theorizing in much of archaeology today also keeps archaeology isolated from other social sciences, where such theory is in the minority. For my take on this issue of theory, see Smith (2011). If archaeologists want to ally themselves with the humanities, then agency, identity, negotiation, post-structuralism and the like are fine, but for a more more grounded social-scientific approach to archaeology, a different kind of theory is needed (I have found Mjøset 2001 and 2009 are very helpful in sorting out the theoretical terrain in both archaeology and the broader social sciences).
- I think many anthropological archaeologists see archaeology as part of a more scientific discipline of anthropology, and as such archaeology (and anthropology), are social sciences for this reason. I am less sanguine about the broader scientific status of anthropology (either "four-field anthropology" or cultural anthropology), and I'd rather see archaeology try to be its own social science without the baggage of anthropology. (Of course this is completely unrealistic given current university disciplinary organization and politics). I am making an intellectual argument, not a structural argument here.
2011 Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework. Cambridge University Press, New York.
2001 Theory: Conceptions in the Social Sciences. In International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, pp. 15641-15647. Elsevier, New York.
2009 The Contextualist Approach to Social Science Methodology. In The Sage Handbook of Case-Based Methods, edited by David Byrne and Charles C. Ragin, pp. 39-68. Sage, London.
Smith, Michael E. 2011 Empirical Urban Theory for Archaeologists. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 18:(in press).